Opioid Overdose Reversal with Naloxone
Do you know that retail pharmacies carry Naloxone?
What is Naloxone?
Naloxone is an FDA-approved medication for counteracting an opioid overdose and has become widely available for purchase in stores and pharmacies as the nation continues to battle the opioid epidemic. Also known by brand names Narcan® and Evzio®, it is a vital medication to prevent overdose by opioids including prescription painkillers (e.g., Percocet, Vicodin, Oxycontin) as well as heroin and fentanyl.
The medication is an opioid receptor blocker, meaning it reverses the toxic effects of an overdose such as slowed or no breathing, unresponsiveness/atypical sleepiness where the individual will not wake, and abnormal heart rate. When administered, it blocks the opioids for 30 to 90 minutes to reverse slowed or no breathing that would otherwise lead to the person’s death. Naloxone comes in three FDA-approved forms including an easy-to-use nasal spray (Narcan), injection, and a pre-filled auto injector (Evzio).
Unlike other medications used to treat opioid use disorders such as buprenorphine, it is not possible to overdose on naloxone and the medication cannot make a person high. Its only outcome is to reverse the effects of opioids. Naloxone is sometimes used in combination with buprenorphine in opioid dependence treatment.
In an opioid overdose emergency, recognizing symptoms of an overdose and taking immediate action to administer naloxone can be lifesaving. This medication should be administered as soon as an opioid overdose is suspected, and then seek emergency medical assistance by calling 9-1-1.
U.S. Surgeon General Naloxone Advisory
In April 2018, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a public health advisory urging Americans to start carrying naloxone as a precaution to reverse an opioid overdose, explaining that more than half of opioid overdoses occur at home. (Read the Surgeon General’s advisory on naloxone and opioid overdose: https://www.surgeongeneral.gov/priorities/opioid-overdose-prevention/naloxone-advisory.html)